Guide to Roasting a Turkey
First, before you even get to the roasting, you should definitely brine your turkey. Click here for instructions on brining your turkey.
1. Start the oven hot: preheat to 450 degrees.
- Remove one rack and place the remaining rack near the bottom. The turkey should be about centered in the oven for even air flow.
- At least an hour before roasting, remove your turkey from the brine and rinse with cold water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. If you have extra time, let it stay refrigerated (uncovered) overnight to help the skin dry out and you'll get even crispier skin.
2. Add some aromatics (onions, carrots, celery, thyme, etc.) to the cavity, NOT stuffing.
- The moisture released from the veggies during roasting helps precent the breast meat from drying out and imbues some flavor.
- We do NOT suggest stuffing a turkey with stuffing-- you will very likely over-roast the turkey to fully cook the stuffing, which might not reach a safe temperature anyway. Cook the stuffing outside of the turkey, and boost it up with some rich turkey stock.
3. You'll need a large roasting pan with high sides, and a rack.
- Your pasture-raised turkey will be quite juicy so be sure to use a roasting pan with plenty of room for the drippings (something bigger and deeper than a baking sheet.)
- Toss 3 to 4 quartered onions, shallots, carrots, roasting potatoes, and other roughly chopped root vegetables in oil and salt, then add to the bottom of the roasting pan. These veggies may be eaten later, but more importantly they will help flavor the pan drippings which are used to make tasty gravy. For really large birds that will require a longer roast, you may want to add the potatoes and carrots half way through roasting to keep them from drying out.
- Place the bird on a rack set in the roasting pan, breast side up.
4. Prepare the skin for extra crispiness.
- Butter the skin: one method is to slice the skin along the breast bone and pour melted butter under the skin and over the skin and pin it back together. Another technique is to cover the bird with a butter soaked cheesecloth, or simply rub room temp butter all over the place. Season the outside with salt, pepper and maybe some herbs.
- Place your chilled but not cold turkey into the hot oven (450 degrees).
5. Start high, then go low, and watch for over-browning.
- Roast uncovered for about 30 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure the skin doesn't burn (tent any part that browns too quickly in foil.) You are trying to crisp the skin and lock in the moisture.
- After thirty minutes and once the skin has browned a bit, reduce the oven temp to 325 or 350 (lower temperature for larger birds.) If the skin starts to brown too much, tent some foil over the bird.
- The turkey should roast for approximately 12 minutes per lb (total time, including the original 30 minutes.) So a 20 lb turkey should take between 3.5-4 hours. A 15 lb turkey only needs 2.5-3 hours.
6. After an hour, start to baste.
- After an hour, using a baster, suck up the pan juices from the bottom of the roasting pan and squirt over the turkey's skin. Continue roasting, checking and basting about every half hour. Keep and eye on the skin- if it any part starts to get too brown, especially the wing tips and the drums, protect with some foil.
7. After 2 hours or so, monitor the internal temp.
- After 2 to 2.5 hours, start watching the temperature (this depends on size of the turkey). People say that our turkeys cook on the faster end, so start checking early. A great tool is a digital thermometer with an oven-safe probe that you can keep inserted in the turkey while it roasts-- this way, you're sure not to overcook. The remote probe thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The breasts do cook faster than the legs, so your might want to tent them once the leg starts reading 145.
- Remove the turkey from the oven when the internal temperature of the breast and thickest part of the thigh reaches about 155 degrees. The internal temperature will continue to rise once removed from the oven, so don't go all the way to 165 unless you're one of those people who love REALLY dry turkey. And we don't know any of those people.
8. Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes after roasting.
- Cover the turkey with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving -- it will continue to cook and pull back in the moisture. You can in fact wrap the turkey tightly in foil for several hours if you need the oven space. However if you slice into a turkey fresh out of the oven, all that delicious moisture you worked so hard to keep in the turkey will spill out all over your counter.
9. Make gravy.
- While it rests, make your gravy from the drippings: strain our and discard the solids from the roasting pan and keep all the flavorful juices. Set it over medium low heat. Whisk in 2 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp butter, and then 1-1.5 cups turkey or chicken stock. Keep whisking till thickened.
Do I put whole lemons in brine or quarter them?
Hi Nadine- Halved or quartered works. Have fun!
If you are doing a turkey breast, would that brine recipe be sufficient, and how do I adjust the roasting temp & time?? Thanks
Hi Debbie! Go by weight– a good rule is 3% salt, 2% sugar & .5% pepper (percentage of weight of turkey.) So if your turkey breast is 7.5lbs, that’s 3400 grams. So about 100 g of salt, 70 g sugar & 17 g peppercorns. You can still add a fraction of the other ingredients you prefer, like herbs, lemons or vinegar, but just be careful that anything acidic will also break down the meat. Roast in the same way (start hot and reduce to 325 or 350), but instead of roasting a while at that high temp, reduce it right away, or within a few minutes, of putting the breast in the oven, just to crisp the outside. Check temp after 45 min to 1 hour.